Believe it or not, some dogs actually love the vet! It’s a place where they get treats, lots of attention, and they get to see other dogs. But for other dogs, the vet office can be a stressful, scary place.
Tips to help your dog’s vet experience go smoothly.
Keep it positive.
You can help your dog associate the vet office with positive experiences by visiting the vet once a week or so even when you don’t have an appointment. Of course, you should ask the staff if this is OK ahead of time and perhaps agree on a specific time when the office is generally not too busy. Explain that you want your dog to view the vet office as a fun place to visit, and perhaps the receptionist could even give him dog treats each time you arrive.
On these “fun visits” to the vet office, simply walk in with your dog, hang out in the lobby for a minute or two and then leave. If your dog will accept treats, try giving him little bits of hot dogs the whole time. Perhaps the receptionist or a vet tech will have a minute to pet and touch your dog if your dog is comfortable being approached by strangers. Your dog just might think the vet office is the best place ever! When you turn to leave the lobby, stop giving your dog treats. You want him to think, “Oh, we’re leaving already? But I want to stay here so I can keep eating treats!”
Socialize your dog every day.
If you take your dog to more places and introduce him to more people, going to the vet may not be such a big deal. It will just be another stop on the list. Just a few ways to socialize your dog could include walking in a new area every day, asking different people to pet your dog or signing up for an obedience class.
You should also practice obedience commands with your dog on a daily basis so your dog learns to look to you for direction in various situations. If you can get your dog to focus on you and listen to you when he’s calm, then you’re going to have an easier time handling your dog when he’s stressed. So practice loose-leash walking and all the basics like sit, stay, down and come.
Warn the vet ahead of time about your dog’s fears.
If the vet has a heads up about your dog’s fears, she can plan accordingly and probably give you some extra advice. For example, if a dog is feeling insecure it’s best to ask people to approach him from the side rather than head on with direct eye contact. The vet should be patient with your dog and talk to him in a soft, calm voice. She may kneel down to examine your dog on the floor instead of placing him on the shiny, scary exam table. If your dog has to be on the table, it might help to place a small dog bed or towel on the table for him to sit on.
Act like going to the vet is no big deal.
If you’re nervous, your dog will be more likely to feel nervous as well. So, try to truly believe that going to the vet is no big deal. It will pay off!
What advice do the rest of you have for helping a fearful dog at the vet?